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There is no occasion to precipitate the technical, very vague, and very unsubstantial condition of citizenship upon the people of the Six Nations. It would only facilitate, while they are poor, the transfer of their lands to hungry white men without benefit to their people at large. The scheme to force the Seneca nation from their existing form of self-government, however feeble that government may be, is simply a mode by which the Senecas, thus being without a representative, can be forced into the courts by action for " partition " aud the elimination of their titles as " tenants in common" for the benefit of the white people.
Universal distrust of the New York Indians and almost utter ignorance of the strong undercurrent of improvement will make the actual facts of their true condition as to property, health, long life, and gradual increase upon a sound basis a surprise to many besides the enumerator.
When the usual accompaniments of small incomes in rural districts, together with musical instruments, sewing machines, sewing circles, and social gatherings, were found to have gained rapidly, so that the so-called pagan element had all it could do to hold its own, and when public opinion had already suppressed the gross forms of the old superstition, and the question of future citizenship was boldly, calmly, and reasonably discussed, there was disclosed the fact that patient sympathy from without, instead of active antagonism, had become sound policy.
The Six Nations will make better citizens by a still longer struggle among themselves, if supported generously and charitably by those who are their true friends. They need supporting laws, but not to be rooted up and left to wilt away. They need, most of all, some enforcement of school attendance. The state of New York, itself lacking law for the compulsory attendance of white children, can not consistently come to the Indians' relief. Church organizations already in the field should redouble their labors, restore the industrial school at Newtown, on the Cattaraugus reservation, and realize that they can do better work than ever before. Every church mission on the reservation can stimulate the political transformation if a united, liberal, and harmonious effort be made. This is especially true of the Allegany reservation, where the scattered population, peculiarly related to the white people, needs more of reconstructive work than most others. The Indians need the encouragement of a friendly regenerating force. Then they will gradually gain self-reliance and the ambition that commands respect and success.
THE TITLES TO INDIAN LANDS.
Independent of the pre-emption lien of the Ogden Land Company upon the lands of the Seneca nation, and absolutely as respects the Onondaga, Tonawanda, and Tuscarora Senecas, the Indians already hold their lands substantially in severalty. The theory advanced by mauy that these lands are so absolutely held in common that the people have no stimulus to improve them is founded upon an erroneous idea of law and fact. The same principle that underlies the English and therefore the American common law obtains here. It has been settled among the Six Nations beyond question that occupation, building upon, and improvement of land by consent of the authorities representing the whole people confer a title, practically in fee simple, excepting that it is inalienable to a foreigner; but it may be conveyed or devised within the nation, and that it is inheritable by the immediate and natural heirs in absence of a will, and that as a system, however crude in form, the distribution of land in case of death almost invariably follows its natural and just direction. The exceptions are not greater than in contests among the white people.
It is equally true that when a party without land applies to the authorities for the formal allotment of land for improvement and cultivation permission to so select and improve land is almost always given. The national title has itself been a guarantee to each individual occupant that this perfect title in the nation is his to control as if he held a deed therefor, and that his use and disposal of said land can not be disturbed. It is also true that there is public domain enough on each reservation to give to every family seeking it all the land needed, and that the disinclination to work, to improve land, and secure support therefrom is the only barrier to a rightful possession and use of said laud. It is also a fact that this tenure is so fully recognized that no body of chiefs or ruling representatives of the Six Nations dare assert any right to disturb that tenure or prevent its sale or devise by the tenant, and that every case, so far as known, reported as a violation of this right by the peacemaker courts or by other authority upon the settlement of an estate or dispute as to adjoining boundaries or conflicting titles, has been adjusted upon evidence, and not upon any assumption that the title was disposable at the choice of said court or chiefs. The judges and chiefs on each reservation unequivocally disclaim such alleged authority, and any assertion of the right would be ignored or resisted. Neither is there any existing usage, method, or power by which an assumption of authority so sweeping could be enforced.
An act of Congress or an act of the general assembly of the state of New York which affirmed such titles would simply modernize in form that established, unwritten law of Indian custom which has the same sanction as the original English title in fee simple, while neither an act of Congress nor an act of the general assembly of the state of New York can reach and disturb the Indian title in severalty as thus established and enjoyed.
LEASES OF SIX NATIONS LANDS.
On each of the reservations, as embodied in the report of the special agent, individual Indians Lire white men to work their lands for a cash rental or upon shares, the white people rarely occupying the soil for homep. Nearly 100 white persons occupy Indian lands in the vicinity of Red House, on the Allegany reservation. The names<)f all are given in the general schedule. '.•*••'
On April 14, 1890, the following official announcement was made by the Seneca nation, but its arbitrary ami illegal penalties barred any practical enforcement:
LAWS OF THE SENECA NATION.
[Passed April 14, 1890.]
Pursuant to the resolution of the Seneca nation in council dated this aforesaid, your committee respectfully report the following, viz: Whereas the laws of the United States forbid the occupancy of any other persons than Indians upon any Indian lands; therefore be it— Resolved, That any Indian or Indians violating the above-mentioned law, outside of the village boundaries, shall be subject to a punishment by confiscation of the land so leased by the council; and, further, that the said Indian or Indians so violating 6hall be deprived of his annuity for the term of 10 years; and, furthermore, that he shall be deprived of the privileges of voting at any elections or holding any office in the gift of the people of the Seneca nation.
The "village boundaries" referred to indicate the corporations of Carrollton, Salamanca, West Salamanca, Vandalia, Great Valley, and Red House, which were surveyed and located by Commissioners Scattergood, Manly, and Shanklin under act of Congress approved February 19, 1875. This was a ratification of certain antecedent leases which the supreme court of New York had held to be illegal, and these leases, which will mature in 1892, except those to railroads, were provisionally extended by act passed by the Fifty-first Congress, upon mutual agreement of the parties, " for a period not exceeding 99 years from their expiration, May, 1892 ". The Oil Spring reservation, which is already on a long lease, is not occupied by Indians.
The income from the corporation lands, which is paid directly to the treasurer of the Seneca nation, supports the peacemaker court and maintains such other executive functions as are within the purview of the national council. The present amount is not far from 89,000 per annum, and the ground rent in many cases is only nominal, that of the principal hotel being but 830 per annum, and others, as a rule, proportionately small.
The Onondaga nation also receives into its treasury rental from stone quarries (only 3 quarries being operated in 1890) at the rate of 8200 per derrick, as detailed in the special agent's report.
The demand made by white citizens, as citizens or as legislators, state or national, is based upon the idea, before intimated, that in case the Indians of the Six Nations should abandon their tribal or national systems all lands owned under an original general title, theoretically in common, would call for proceedings in partition, as in the case of an estate where no provision had been made by a decedent for a distribution among joint heirs. Independent of previously matured rights through purchase, gift, or settlement, this claim has no legal basis, unless it first be made to appear that existing individual holdings are at the expense of rightful copartners in interest, who, without their choice and adversely to their rights, are deprived of their distributive shares in a common inheritance.
The immemorial recognition of the right of any family to enter upon the public domain and occupy land, equally open to all, and only improved by the industrious, disqualifies the assenting, passive tenant from claiming any benefits from the industry of the diligent. The indolent Indian alone is responsible for the neglect to avail himself of that which is free to all.
THE NATURAL DISTRIBUTION.
The claim by some that the lands of the Six Nations shall be divided per capita or per stirpes, in severalty, is a form of communism, ignoring all the just equivalent of honest industry and asserting a prerogative of authority over property and fruitful labor that no government in contact with the civilized world at present would dare assert, much less attempt to exercise.
There is not the faintest similarity between Indian occupation of any western reservation and the titles of the
Six Nations to their lands. The United States and the state of New York, without anticipating the paramount
authority of the federal courts, have the physical power to ignore treaties and contracts for which an adequate
consideration has been paid; but nothing less than a casus belli, when all treaties end with conflict and might
establishes its false code of right in a new adjustment of relations between the parties, can furnish an excuse for
Given a state of facts which warrants a partition of the Indian lands, share and share alike, at any fixed date, and effect the partition; then project the effect forward 1 month, 12 months, 12 years, or a generation, and the argument will be, and is unequivocally announced, that then, or very soon, the Indian property will appear as • • •
property of wriiie.*Then, will have beeu wasted, and only a very few will have preserved their share or have developed and improved'it. The result will follow the natural law of industry and idleness, by which invariably only a certain per cenfqf any people acquire and retain evidence of well-directed industry. Accurate tables have long defined thiff *percentage, so that political economists rarely err in their forecast of the prospectively distributed wealth of dlflfeVeht peoples and classes of people.
*;..' At present the Six Nations of New York, with their 80,000 acres, are within easy reach, and helpless, with "every possible depressive surrounding to destroy hope for the future, if they who have been industrious are to be pooled with the thriftless who never lacked opportunities to acquire land, but improved none.
THE PRESENT STATUS.
Looking backward as far as political economists can forecast the future, then, as now, you see all lands to have been held in common by the various members of the Iroquois league. As at present, the same choice inured to each family to select, cultivate, buy, sell, and transmit to posterity whatever the members thereof elected. The result of that choice or want of choice, of industry or idleness, of economy or waste, of good judgment or thriftlessness is visible in farms or weedy patches, in houses or cabins, in education or ignorance, in decency or filth. The natural and, but for the universal law in all generations of men, remarkable fact is plainly evident that the percentage of the relative grades of acquisition or waste of large or medinm accumulations, of bare support or of scant support, is almost identical with the average of communities wholly white, and the percentage of absolute suffering from want much less than in very many settlements of white people.
Even the Indians of the present generation have worked out this practical law of property and industry. The resolution of all products of that industry back to a common level, in the guise of misnamed severalty (in spite of a practically existing severalty), opens up to the white man his chance to reap fruit from the neglected shares of the indolent, and eliminates the Indian as rapidly as possible from all interest as well as pride and title in the inheritance of his fathers. And this is proposed as a solution of the Indian problem in this present year of grace!
In concluding this report of the condition of the Six Nations in 1890 it is natural to add the fact that in addition to a constant reference to the published testimony taken by the New York commission nearly every witness, whether white or Indian, was visited personally, and their interested co-operation greatly aided the special agent in his work.
The burden of the Ogden Land Company's claim must be lifted. Premature sales to the white people must be prevented.
In the closing words of the New York commission, "It can not be expected that the Indians will at once become self-dependent, and that all state aid or protection can be withdrawn. It will still be necessary to help them over ' the first rough places in the white man's road', and to aid them to gain a foothold in their ascent to self-respect and self-support".
Meanwhile their representative men, those who are to deal with the state and nation, must have adequate credentials, and be required to accept as binding upon them every obligation which belongs to contiguous states, and see that the laws, codes, and relationships of the age shall not be abused by any to the injury of others.
REPORT OF ENUMERATOR JACKSON. Enumerator T. W. Jackson, United States Indian agent for the Six Nations, in his annual report for 1890, says:
Legislation'.—A bill was introduced in the New York state legislature in February, 1890, by Mr. Whipple, member of assembly from Cattaraugus county, to authorize the governor to nominate and appoint three commissioners to superintend the survey of all lands within this state now held or occupied by any band or tribe of Indians, and to allot the same in severalty in fee simple to the Indians entitled to the occupancy thereof. Said commissioners were authorized to allot one share to each person and to secure as far as possible to each occupant the land now held and the improvements already made and owned by him and to permit all persons to select for themselves and their families so far as the same is consistent. All land not practical to allot shall be sold for the benefit of the band or tribe. Section 12 provided as follows .
The land belonging to the Seneca Indians lying within the villages of Vandalia, Carrollton, Great Valley, Salamanca, West Salamanca, or Red House, Ha well ax that leased to railroad corporations, may be sold to white people whenever the said Seneca nation can legally sell the same and choose to do so.
Said act also makes all Indians to whom or in whose behalf any allotment of land has been made, and the children of such Indians, citizens of this state from the date of the approval by the governor of the allotments provided for in said act, and every Indian who, by purchase or otherwise, has become or may hereafter become a resident of this state, shall become and is hereby declared to be a citizen of this state, and shall be subject to the civil and criminal laws of the state, and entitled to all the rights, privileges, and protection thereof, except to be exempt from all laws for the collection of debts or taxation, so far as the same may affect the alienation of their lands, provided said land is within the limits of any Indian reservation, until the expiration of 30 years. Said bill also provides that after the allotment is completed it shall be a misdemeanor for any person or persons in this state to institute or continue any custom or organization or to confer any title inconsistent with the laws of this state in the name of tribal custom, usage, or government.
Said act also provides that it shall not apply to any land in the Allegany, Cattaraugus, or Oil Spring reservations now occupied by the Seneca Indians, nor to the lands of the Tuscarora Indians, until all claims of the Ogden company to said lands are extinguished. The Onondaga reservation was excepted from the provision of this bill.
The friends of the Indians criticised very severely the motives of this bill, and claim—
First. That as soon as this bill becomes a law and the tribal relations are broken np all rents and annuities will cease, and that the Ogden Land Company can immediately proceed to enforce their claims upon the reservation lands.
Second. That the bill is drawn more particularly for the benefit of white persons who are living upon leased reservation lands in the villages of Vandalia, Carrolltou, Great Valley, Salamanca, West Salamanca, and Ked House, and that these lands are not allotable under the bill and are excepted from the provisions that no land shall be alienated for 30 years; and that their claims were well founded maybe judged from the following, over the signature of one of the advocates of the bill:
Let us briefly consider what will be the effect on our leaseholders upon the Allegany reservation. Suppose there is nu longer a Seneca nation of Indians. Then, of course, there is no council to renew our leases or to receive any annual rents, they having been abolished, wiped out by act of legislature. Now, this same authority, having by a legislative act been abolished, dissolved the nation and its council, it would be incumbent on them to provide for our relief. The Indians and their friends would also demand that something be done. They could not take our lands and allot them among the tribe. They could no longer be leased. We arc as secure in our titles as are the people of Dayton or any other town to theirs.
The bill passed both branches of the legislature, but in the face of these serious objections and many others the governor allowed the bill to die by refusing to sign it.
In my opinion, the proper way to civilize the Indians of New York is to secure a division of their lands in severalty, and place them in full citizenship; but there are many questions and difficulties to be overcome before this can be done without injury to the rights of the Indians. The first and most important thing to be settled is the right of the Ogden Land Company, and the next the lease problem in the villages of 'Vandalia, Carrollton, Great Valley, Salamanca, West Salamanca, and Red House. These are momentous questions, and to be settled fairly requires the best assistance on behalf of the Indian that can be furnished by the government for their protection.
As stated in my special report upon the subject of leases in these villages, there are many abuses existing in consequence of these, for many of which the Indians are alone to blame. Corruption in its worst form has existed in their councils; and for a small sum of money leaseholders have been known to enter the council and have their annual rent reduced one-half. Many of the complaints made to me by the Indians of their trouble with white intruders I find, upon investigation, to have been brought about by the Indians themselves. For a trifling sum they allow some low white man to occupy their land, and then, after seeing the poor bargain they have made, seek to have him removed by the agent or nation. I find that, after going to an immense amount of trouble and expense in getting one or two intruders removed from the reservation, the council or individual Indians will turn around and, in one-tenth of the time required to remove them, will let on twice as many more. These things make it quite discouraging for the agent.
This state of facts applies more to the Allegany and Cattaraugus reservations than to any of the others, scarcely any complaints coming from any of the reservations in regard to intruders except the Allegany.
Sanitary.—The sanitary condition of the Indians during the past year has been very good. On account of the mildness of the winter they were not compelled to keep housed up, and the most of the time were able to be around, exercising; and this, in my opinion, does away with a large amount of sickness. If it were one continual summer the Indians of western New York would be able to live better, but our winters are too much for them. Scanty clothing, scanty food, and unclean living make the lot of our Indians a hard one during the cold weather.
Agriculture.—The crops of the Indians upon the reservations in western New York are, I think, fully up to the average. In consequence of the agitation among the Indians in regard to the bill in the legislature for the division of their lands in severalty, there have been few improvements made during the past year. This unsettled condition of these Indians is a great hindrance to their advancement toward civilization. They are expecting at any time some new steps will be taken to change their condition, and they are consequently loath to make extended improvements, either in building or clearing up their land, as they are afraid the benefit will be reaped either by the whites or other Indians.
Whisky.—There has been very much trouble upon the Allegany reservation during the past year (prior to June 30, 1890) on account of the sale of whisky to the Indians. At Red House drnnken rows have been frequent, and fights between white men and Indians in several instances have resulted in serious injuries to the Indians. All efforts to secure conviction of the guilty parties have proved unavailing on account of the refusal of the Indians to tell where they got their whisky. Early in the spring the commissioner of internal revenue was notified by the authorities at Washington not to issue stamps to persons who were to sell liquors on the Indian reservations, and stamps were refused to the dealers residing in the villages upon the Allegany reservation. Pending an appeal by the dealers to the authorities at Washington, some were given authority to sell until the matter was decided. Alter considerable delay the opinion of the Attorney General upon the question was received, deciding that the government had no authority to issue licenses to sell liquors upon the reservations, and consequently the sale of liquors in the villages upon the reservation has been stopped altogether. This action on the part of the officials at Washington has caused great consternation among the local liquor dealers.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
T. W. JACKSON, United States Indian Agent.